Louis McGarry, Sales and Marketing Director, CENTIEL UK Ltd provides a different way of thinking when it comes to designing add-on structures (GRP or Shipping Containers) which can be integrated into your existing real estate.

When there is a need to protect critical power and you have run out of space what do you do?  Consider the modular approach! Now, I know what you are thinking, “another article about modular UPS!!” but just wait a minute before turning the page.  I am referring to taking the benefits associated with a modular UPS and how they apply when designing add-on structures which can be integrated into your existing real estate.

When we talk about modular UPS, we talk about flexibility, reduced footprint, scalability both horizontally and vertically, ease of maintenance, and high quality. These same benefits can also be seen when implementing add-on structures.

Walk around any hospital which is more than ten years old and you will usually see a pick and mix of different add-on buildings, from extensions to portacabins, all striving to provide the extra space needed to support the facility and its patients.  A UPS can be installed into such ‘add-on structures’ too, offering cost effective and rapid deployment of power protection right to where it’s needed.

There is a growing range of options to suit different scenarios.  Shipping containers for example, have been used to house UPS systems for many years.  Containers can be used both inside and outside buildings to deploy self-contained critical power infrastructure, which can be added like Lego blocks as required.   They can also be a great option to extend a comms room or put a new facility in a remote or challenging location, offering a scalable solution when facilities have run out of space.

Modification of the container is necessary to provide a quality installation and an adequate environment for equipment.  They need to be insulated, boarded and set onto concrete foundations, usually slightly raised to remove the risk of flooding.  They need to be lined and finished to prevent condensation.  However, this has advantages too, a white melamine finish creates an environment which is similar to that of a clean room, adding to the longevity of the equipment being housed.

A different option is Glass Reinforced Polymer (GRP) composite buildings.  Unlike shipping containers which have fixed dimensions of 20 feet, GRP composite buildings offer more flexibility, they are bespoke and can be designed to any size, to match any requirements.  They are relatively light-weight, and this can open-up the innovative use of unused areas on roofs for example, maximising the use of space.

We recently designed and commissioned a new UPS for a facility near London.  With the existing buildings already at capacity, there was simply nowhere for the critical power infrastructure to be housed internally. A different thought process was needed, harnessing our internal expertise and past experience, we were able to develop a solution to house the UPS external to the building.  A GRP composite building was craned into position, on a specially reinforced roof.  The innovative concept and design that we created, allowed access for equipment and maintenance, maximising the space available and minimising costs at the same time.

There are a number of advantages of using GRP composite buildings.  Firstly, they create more space at a fraction of the cost of an extension or the construction of a new brick building and can result in up to ten-fold savings. They are totally bespoke, so can be designed to match the exact needs of the client and the size of the UPS and other equipment required.  They are safe, providing a fire-retardant structure and high-level security.   Colours can be ordered to blend in with the existing environment (or stand out if necessary – bright pink is available!).

Providing the design work is completed diligently by an experienced team, they are quick to install too.  The recent London project took just eight weeks to complete from the approval of drawings to full commissioning of the UPS within the new GRP structure.  Craning the GRP onto the reinforced roof took just one day, minimising disruption to the busy site.

There are a number of considerations that need to be addressed when designing GRP solutions. You are working within a condensed space, so layout planning needs to be detailed and completed by experienced engineers.  Everything associated with the electrical infrastructure such as the type and weight of cables and their entry points all need to be planned and re-planned as the design develops. The overall aim is to ensure that the area available is fully optimized and offers ease of installation and maintenance going forward.

Environmental control also needs to be considered.  Air conditioning to keep batteries at the optimal temperature plus extraction points need to be in the plan.  Even the colour of the GRP itself and surrounding buildings – particularly if it is a dark colour and placed in direct sunlight, can influence the amount of energy usage and air conditioning needed.  This means calculations need to be made carefully, taking into account all the elements of the build.

It all comes down to planning and joined-up thinking.  At CENTIEL, we work closely with a trusted GRP manufacturer to ensure the specification precisely matches our approved design.  We work with all parties to create the concept, manage the design process and complete the entire installation successfully.

For these turnkey projects to work, a joint approach is needed.  Contractors, sub-contractors, consultants, sales engineers and the operations team all need to work together and all need to understand and be clear on the design of the project upfront.  Collaboration and agreement on paper is necessary.  It’s a measure twice, cut once scenario, where everyone needs to know their demarcations and responsibilities.

Installation itself, providing the planning process is managed correctly can be very swift.  In this way, GRP can offer a customizable, cost effective and rapid deployment of power protection.  For the datacentres of the future, or indeed any facility that needs to protect power, it is likely they will become an even more popular option for organizations looking to save space and reduce total cost of ownership.

The team at CENTIEL has been at the forefront of UPS development over several decades.   We are experienced and trusted innovators, who think differently. Our expertise in modular technology and UPS design enables us to advise on the best options available to suit individual clients.  For GRP or containerised UPS systems, we manage the concept, design and build of the full turnkey installation.  Our leading-edge technology, backed-up with our comprehensive maintenance contracts carried out by our experienced engineering teams ensure our clients’ power has the very best protection at all times, wherever it is housed.

Originally featured in Electrical Review Magazine November 2020.

Electrical Review DPS
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